July 28, 2022|FEATURED, North Tustin

By Tina Richards 

“My position on the Tustin Hills Racquet Club [development] hasn’t changed,” Supervisor Don Wagner told the audience at the annual Foothill Communities Association (FCA) meeting, July 19.

“Property rights are important, but there are caveats. When you buy a linchpin in a community (the racquet club), where others have bought property due to its character, you need to get the support of the neighborhood before you change it. That hasn’t been done,” he said.

Wagner stressed that neighbors have property rights, too, and that they have every right to expect that the character of their neighborhood will remain. He advised that the proposed 37-unit racquet club development will likely come to the Board of Supervisors, and that he will vote against it. He also noted that it will take a “no” vote from three supervisors to defeat it.

Due to redistricting, he added, he now represents only two-thirds of North Tustin. The other third is now in District 2, which will be electing a representative this November.

The Supervisor was one of several speakers to address the 200-plus North Tustin residents who attended the meeting. Sheriff Don Barnes reported that while crime has increased statewide over the past decade, Orange County has not been hit as hard as neighboring counties. “We do something unique and innovative here,” he said, “we still arrest people.”

North Tustin has not been exempt from the rising crime rate.  Barnes noted that there have several residential burglaries in the foothill area, but that sheriffs caught three intruders in the act and took them into custody. “It’s important that you call us when you see something in your neighborhood that shouldn’t be there,” he said. “We’d rather be preventive than reactionary.”

Barnes also addressed school safety and assured the audience that the OC Sheriff’s Department has made major investments to protect schoolchildren. The department has two programs targeted to school campuses. Sheriffs now investigate every reported incident or unusual behavior on school grounds. “We’ve taken bombs and guns from lockers and kid’s bedrooms,” he said.

A divergent program gets troubled kids into treatment rather than “dumping them into the system.” The department has a resource officer on16 high school campuses and maintains a hotline for students to call.

A spokesperson from OC Parks provided an update on the long delayed park slated for Newport Blvd. and Crawford Canyon.  “All the construction documents are finished and the permits are in place,” Natilia Gaelan explained.  But now OC Parks is waiting for Public Works to finish putting in sidewalks and a deceleration lane to allow access to the park once it’s built. The project will not likely start until 2023.

The FCA convinced the county to buy that parcel for parkland in 2012. It did but had no funding to do anything more. When Clearwater Senior Living on Newport was approved in 2018, the developer agreed to give the county $850,000 to design and build the park. That obligation was met, but the start date on park construction has been slipping from year to year ever since.